Do you see the elephant?

There is an elephant in the room in Augusta. While current leadership seems fixed on how to bring people to the downtown area, Augusta is not growing. According to census data from 2000 to 2010, Augusta experienced three-tenths of 1 percent growth while Columbia County’s population grew 40 percent. Richmond County is struggling to find adequate revenue to improve police and fire protection, sanitation, infrastructure, education, etc. If we don’t grow, this situation only gets more precarious.

Do leaders of Augusta see this? What is their plan to grow this community? They spend months talking about the city’s golf course when the real question is: How do we convince families to move here as we compete against Martinez and Evans? It’s a tough sell. Move to Augusta where the property taxes are higher, crime is significantly greater and schools produce considerably lower results vs. our neighboring county of Columbia. Hello! Does anyone see the elephant?

Recently, Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams stated that crime is everywhere, and we do not have a problem. Recently, education leaders touted improved test scores without mentioning that Columbia County scores exceed our county by a significant margin. This, while Richmond spends $1,200 per student more. Is this the plan – deny and mislead?

People will not locate here in this environment. Building a ballpark downtown, a veranda on Broad Street or placing lights on Riverwalk Augusta will not energize families to move to Augusta. Certainly the caustic environment presented each week at commission meetings gets us nowhere. My fear is that the current leadership stomachs the prevailing conditions and rejects the need for historic boldness. Currently we, at best, are managing mediocrity. In any case, 10 more years of zero growth and the current stagnation will become poisonous.

You cannot fix what you won’t acknowledge. I am a retired high-school teacher who lives in the Harrisburg area. I love it here and wish more citizens would move here.

Barry Cook

Augusta

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